Causes and dynamics of mixed unskilled migrants trafficked within the Horn region

Horn of Africa
Tilburg University

This is an output from a project that was part of the fifth Applied Research Fund (ARF) on mixed migration flows. The ARF is executed by NWO-WOTRO in close collaboration with the Platform. The call aims to strengthen the evidence-base for security and rule of law policies and programming, addressing the root causes, and the dynamics and consequences of mixed migration flows within and from fragile and conflict-affected settings.

This study looks at mixed migration and human trafficking in Sudan and Ethiopia, focusing on refugees from Eritrea within their host communities. It explores the causes of migration and trafficking and the role of information-sharing along the migration routes and in refugee communities. The study comprised different components and looked into the role of mobile phone usage among migrants, livelihoods and trauma.

The study finds that human trafficking moves dynamically across such locations and communities. Traumatized victims of human trafficking often lack the support they require, which frequently compromises their ability to rationally assess the risks involved with onward migration. This is especially prevalent among single mothers who are stigmatized if they are victims of sexual violence and their children. The trauma can push migrants to migrate onwards, which subsequently exposes them to trafficking again. The high prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress leads to collective trauma amongst refugee populations. In this project a Self Help Low Cost Post Traumatic Stress (SHLCPTS) tool was tested. It proved to be highly effective in reducing trauma, improving the sociability of victims and their socio-economic resilience. This was the case especially if combined with livelihood generating activities-

In terms of how migrants access information regarding routes and risks of trafficking, the study finds that social media are key. Minors, even with little connectivity, demonstrated ingenuity in establishing contact with people close to them and across the globe, and use social media as their principle source of information. 

The research recommends revisiting the theory of ‘push-and-pull’, which underlies current policies to reverse migration flows through fear-inducing obstacles to mobility. The findings suggest that these measures may compound existing trauma and be counterproductive, leading migrants to be more willing to take risks and migrate onwards. Rather, a policy of care for trauma, enhancing livelihoods and out-of-camp policies will help migrant and refugee youth to consider options based on resilience and positive appreciation of support available to them.

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